What if the Cubs Had Signed Albert Pujols? And Other Bullets

albert-pujols-the-decision-bleacher-nationThere will be a more formal unveiling later today, but … did you notice that if you append the word “bears” onto bleachernation.com/, something magical happens? Take a look for yourself

  • A brilliantly fun idea over at CBS, where they’re revisiting big-time rumors of years past that never came to be. Matt Snyder revisits the Albert Pujols/Jim Hendry hug, and what might have been if Hendry hadn’t been fired by the Chicago Cubs in mid-2011. Would the Cubs have gone after Pujols? I’m not sure the money would have been there even if Hendry still was, but it’s an interesting thought experiment. Snyder’s conclusion? The Cubs would have been quite a bit better in 2012 and 2013 (but not a playoff contender, even after making other moves in tandem with Pujols), and the future would be looking pretty bleak right now. I tend to agree with him, *cough* people-who-wanted-the-Cubs-to-take-that-path-are-crazy *cough*. What’s hard to project is, if Hendry had stayed and Pujols had come, what would the money situation look like right now? Would the Cubs be in worse shape, having committed a quarter billion to Pujols (and then probably kept spending elevated for the last two years to try and compete), or better shape having probably seen attendance stabilize a bit? I tend to think, unless the Cubs were a repeat playoff team in those two seasons, any revenue bump wouldn’t have been sufficient to put the Cubs in a better position going forward than they are today (i.e., so much more money that the dramatic reduction in top-line prospects wouldn’t hurt).
  • It’s tender deadline day (and you can read my tender prep here if you haven’t already), which means we’ll get some roster news today no matter what. The deadline is 11pm CT, so I’m going to put the coffee on.
  • Carrie Muskat writes up her take on the tender decisions here (add Mat Gamel and George Kottaras to the arbitration-eligible list). The primary discussion piece is Darwin Barney, who has become the surprise focal point of the Cubs’ tender decisions today. Muskat concludes that Barney is likely to be tendered, even if his performance last year has called a return into question. Muskat adds that Daniel Bard is expected to be tendered, which is surprising to me, given his struggles over the last two years and his abysmal winter league performance. If Bard is tendered, don’t freak out: contracts awarded in arbitration are not fully guaranteed if the player is released in Spring Training. So, after tendering, the Cubs could negotiate a reduced, non-guaranteed contract with Bard. That said, he’d still be occupying a 40-man roster spot. I still expect a non-tender (or an 11th hour deal announced today), and then the Cubs working out a minor league deal with Bard.
  • Tony Andracki writes about Rick Renteria’s days managing at Kane County.
  • Apropos of nothing more than my own curiosity, the National League average slash line for all position players (not including pitchers) last year was .258/.323/.401 with a wOBA of .318. So, those are your baselines when you consider whether a player is above or below average.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

111 responses to “What if the Cubs Had Signed Albert Pujols? And Other Bullets”

  1. Kyle

    He concludes that the future will be bleak because he assumes vaguely that any “top prospects” would be dealt for pieces to “go for it.” Not exactly plumbing to new depths of analysis there.

    Of course, if we *had* traded our top prospects back then, then we’d have been selling high and getting peak value for Jackson and McNutt.

    1. ssckelley

      I do wonder what veteran player Jackson and McNutt could have gotten the Cubs 2 years ago. But you also have to remember these deals would have cost the Cubs Kris Bryant and (as you said below) Pierce Johnson. I know they are still prospects and anything can happen, but both are top 10 in the Cubs organization. If the Cubs were to trade Bryant and Johnson next year (when Bryant is eligible to be traded) I am sure they could net a damn good veteran player.

  2. Kyle

    Side note: It’s pretty hard to get a player’s arbitration award voided in spring training. You have to prove he was released for baseball reasons and not just to avoid his salary, which is hard because you just claimed he *was* worth it by tendering him. You have to more or less show that his abilities have materially changed since then.

  3. toby taylr

    now we can go back to “the sky is falling, the sky is falling ” per cubs fans

    1. Kyle

      How weird for Cubs fans to think that things are going badly when we’ve set a franchise futility mark the last two years and haven’t had a winning season in four, while attendance is down 600k from its peak.

    2. Jon

      The Cubs have lost 197 games the past two seasons. Pollyanna-ism like this is just as obnoxious as over negativity.

      1. YourResidentJag


      2. Eric

        1. No one that I have seen speaking out against those of you who have confused logic with cynicism can be called a Pollyanna by any reasonable person.

        2. For some people, it requires less thought to bitch and moan and armchair GM therefore, that is the path they choose.

        3. For those of us who can see the big picture, all businesses have to have a plan in order to succeed.

        1. Kyle

          Yes, yes, it takes such a lofty intellectual position to think good things about your favorite sports team. That’s a hallmark of sports fans: They always think their teams is bad and see things from the other team’s POV.

          1. Eric

            Maybe if you didn’t think of it as a “lofty intellectual position” it wouldn’t be so daunting for you. I could train a chimp to bitch about everything this FO does. Try expecting more from yourself.

          2. DocPeterWimsey

            What’s the old saying to the extent of being terrified of the other team’s star because he comes through once in every three tries while knowing that your “star” is a dud because he fails twice in every three tries?

        2. CubFan Paul

          “it requires less thought to bitch and moan and armchair GM”

          It actually requires a lot more thought and energy to think out of the box/herd.

          1. Eric

            Careful, Kyle doesn’t like to be called a hipster.

            1. YourResidentJag

              Baiting for trolls, today, eh?

              1. Eric

                You’re asking if I’m setting bait for trolls to respond to? Hmm…..that’s possible I suppose. Looks like its working.

                1. YourResidentJag

                  Well, you responded. So, I guess you’re agreeing with me by default. So, that’s you’re strategy on here now and with every future comment I’ll see from you. I’ll take this into consideration, now, with you.

                  1. YourResidentJag


                  2. Eric

                    If that’s what it takes for your ego to remain stroked, by all means….

                    1. YourResidentJag

                      Why do you keep responding with your intentions on here and sublimate them for mine?

                    2. Eric

                      It appears that having the last comment in this discussion is important to you. I will allow it. Please proceed.

      3. CB

        If you don’t like blue kool aid, this site probably isn’t for you

        1. hansman

          I hate blue kool aid…

          1. DarthHater

            No hamburgers for you until you finish your blue koolaid!

        2. Eric

          I’m almost certain Godwin’s Law was recently modified by hansman to include references to Jonestown.

      4. MightyBear

        You know that 197 games thing is a bunch of bullshit. If the Cubs had lost 162 games over the last two years, would they be better off? No, they would have been a 500 team with middle of the road draft picks who didn’t make the playoffs either year.

  4. CubFan Paul

    The 2013 line, .258/.323/.401 is down from 2012′s .261/.327/.414 slash line.

    Not a good trend for ‘average’

    1. cub2014

      that .323 OBP is where the Cubs were whoafully lacking,
      .300 isnt going to get it done!!

      1. cub2014

        with the HR’s and extra base hits the Cubs had
        cant imagine how many more runs Cubs would
        have scored with just the league average OBP

        1. DocPeterWimsey

          There’s no need to imagine. That would have given the Cubs a team OPS of 0.71. Over the last 50+ years, that means you expect about 690 runs give or take 27.

          Mind you, the Cubs were on the low end last year: with a 0.693 OPS, the typical team scores 656 runs, not 602. Basically, only about 3% of teams in the last 50+ years have done that poorly (or worse). Fortunately, this is not a heritable trait: it’s basically about 50:50 as to whether the Cubs over/under-achieve next year.

      2. ssckelley

        The Cubs have fixed this, we now have George Kottaras!!!!

        1. Eric

          The Canadian Clubber!

    2. cub2014

      I know I am always clammering to get some OB guys
      well I did find an interesting stat (before everyone jumps
      on me I know this doesnt factor in pitching defense or
      anything else) Here is a look at Cubs OBP compared to
      wins the last 6 years:

      2013 OBP .300 Wins 66 Rank 28:
      2012 OBP .302 Wins 61 Rank 28:
      2011 OBP .314 Wins 71 Rank 20:
      2010 OBP .320 Wins 75 Rank 21:
      2009 OBP .332 Wins 83 Rank 17:
      2008 OBP .354 Wins 97 Rank 2:

      1. CubsFanSaxMan

        I am not a big stat guy, but I see a trend here. Mueller has his work cut out for him.

    3. CubsFanSaxMan

      So, what’s the reason for the decline? Better pitching? Decline in talent of position players’ hitting? Combination of the two? Or just an off year for the hitters? What do we think out there in BN land? I know, too many questions.

  5. ssckelley

    I am curious, had the Cubs signed Pujols which draft pick would it have cost the Cubs? The Cubs drafted 6th that year so that was protected. Would it have cost the Cubs one of their compensation picks that netted them Pierce Johnson plus Paul Blackburn or the 2nd round pick that got the Cubs Duane Underwood?

    1. Kyle

      Under the new CBA, I’m pretty sure you can lose comp picks, so it would have been the Pierce Johnson pick.

      1. ssckelley

        That would have sucked, I doubt Pierce would have still been there at #56.

      2. CubFan Paul

        We should of signed the 27yr old Fielder then.

        That was one of the earlier signs of “The Plan” being bullshit.

        1. MichiganGoat

          For all we know we were very involved but nobody expected the Tigers would go that large- would we really have been happy if we signed him for that much and that long? We still wouldn’t be in the playoffs.

          1. CubFan Paul

            Prince didn’t sign with the Tigers until Boras went above the General Manager’s head (late January) to the 90plus year old Owner.

            1. Norm

              Or maybe the fact that it’s not a good idea to build your organization around a 1B.
              1B should be one of the LAST places to sign a big dollar player.

              1. Kyle

                Cardinals built a pretty good organization around a 1b for a long time.

                1. Norm

                  Maybe it didn’t come across that way, but I was referring to paying for one in free agency.

                  1. hansman

                    Hey, lots of teams built a decade-long winner around a 31-year old 1B that had declined the 2 years prior to FA.

                  2. CubFan Paul

                    So, Free Agency bad. Farm system good.

                    Got it.

                    1. cub2014

                      Bad Free Agents Bad!!!! Good Free Agents
                      good & yes farm system good.

                    2. Norm

                      You apparently don’t get it if that was your takeaway.

                    3. Eric

                      Farm system good, free agency supplement.

                2. terencemann

                  The Cubs also have a cost-controlled good 1b who was drafted well-after the 1st round (although not nearly as far down the line as Pujols and not nearly as good as Pujols).

              2. YourResidentJag

                Or trade a prime SP for one?

            2. MichiganGoat

              Well if that conspiracy is correct Paul we had no chance on Fielder. Boras did his job and got somebody to overpay. For all we know we had a 90M+ offer on the table, so I’m not really sure why or how we can be upset that we didn’t get Fielder.

          2. ssckelley

            Do we know that for sure? Ramirez probably would have stuck around and if the Cubs had traded their top 2 prospects (Jackson and McNutt) as Kyle suggested above that should have gotten the Cubs another good veteran player. You plug Ramirez and Fielder into the middle of the Cubs 2012 lineup and it might have won quite a few games. Plus I doubt the Cubs would have traded for Rizzo so you would have Cashner back for either in the rotation or the bullpen.

            What it would have cost the Cubs is drafting Kris Bryant, Pierce Johnson, Paul Blackburn, and probably Duane Underwood.

            1. hansman

              Hindsight says:
              The 2012 Cubs needed a BP arm, 3B and CF.

              Fielder wouldn’t have helped nearly as much as Ramirez.

              1. ssckelley

                Keep in mind the Cubs would still have had Cashner, which could have helped the bullpen. Center field remains a puzzle although the Cubs had 2 top 100 prospects they could have traded.

                But my point is it would not have taken much to get the Cubs into the playoffs in 2012, the Cardinals got in with 88 wins. I know that is a huge jump from 61 but the Cubs lost a ton of games after the trade deadline when they were tossing all kinds of junk out onto the field (gawd I miss Justin Germano).

                1. jon

                  My guess, is Cashner would be a starter, if still here. The strategy of the front office seems to be try every last avenue to see if a guy can be a starter, before moving him to the pen
                  (I agree with this)

                2. hansman

                  1B was one of the few bright spots of the 2012 season.

                  The Cashner trade didn’t hurt so much as the Marshall trade did that season.

                  1. ssckelley

                    That might have been another deal that would not have happened.

                    1. hansman

                      Very true.

                3. terencemann

                  Fielder and Ramirez combined for 2.2 WAR this season. That’s where those moves get you. And I doubt they could have stretched the payroll to accommodate those 2 and a competent pitching staff in the mean time, which would have been a very important part of the equation.

          3. DocPeterWimsey

            By other accounts, the Tigers only became interested in Fielder when it became clear that they were not going to pry Chase Headley from the Padres. The hope was to get Headley (who had put up solid if unspectacular numbers in a park similar to Comerica while providing excellent fielding) and play Miggy at 1st.

            Once it became clear that the Padres wanted the Moon and a couple of Jovian satellites to boot, signing Fielder and moving Miggy to 3rd became a good “win now” option.

        2. hansman

          So we could have traded him two years later for an aging middle infielder!!!!!

          1. YourResidentJag

            From the king of “that was a hindsight argument if I ever saw one”, that Hansman was a hindsight argument if I ever saw one. ;)

            1. hansman

              I was hoping the extra exclamation points would convey the jest.

              Back then I was on board for a Fielder signing up to 6 or 7 years. Going 9 years on him I thought was just dumb.

              1. YourResidentJag

                Well, yes the contract was dumb but the outcome two years later….who knew, regardless of the jest.

                1. hansman

                  I agree. I didn’t expect garbage out of him until the 2015 season.

        3. cavemencubbie

          Prince Fielder is no prince at 1st base. The guy moves like a boulder. I am personally happy we didn’t get him or Pujhols. Both haven’t lived up to their inflated contracts.

          1. CubFan Paul

            “I am personally happy we didn’t get him…haven’t lived up to their inflated contracts”

            Fielder has

            1. hansman

              His first season in Detroit, yes. Last year, not so much.

              1. CubFan Paul

                His 2013 stats beg to differ (especially when Brett pointed out the average slash line in the NL was .258/.323/.401 (….256/.321/.406 in the AL))

                1. hansman

                  He wasn’t $23M good last year, even if you solely look at his offense.

                  1. CubFan Paul

                    SMALL SAMPLE SIZE MUCH HANS?!

                    Hitting .279/.362/.457, 25HR, 106RBI is no reason to say he hasn’t lived up to his contract in the 2ND YEAR.

                    Try harder, instead of one lining

                    1. Norm

                      Sure it is. Those numbers are not worth $23M/year. The question isn’t “will he live up to it”….it’s “has he”. And he hasn’t.

                    2. MichiganGoat

                      Yeah that’s not that impressive it’s definately not 23M impressive. For 23M you’d expect a OPS closer to .900 than .800. And you can just ignore those RBI because well I don’t want to get into that again.

                2. Hookers or Cake

                  I don’t think the Tigers gave him 9/224 to be a better than average. Plus depending on what you’re looking at he was 19th out of 25 1B in all of MLB according to WAR. 12th in OPS if you don’t like factoring in his horrible defense and inability to run.

            2. terencemann

              Fielder wasn’t even a top 10 offensive first baseman by .wOBA this season. The only guy better than him with a contract anywhere near Fielder’s is Votto.

    2. hansman

      Odds are, if Hendry were around and wanted Pujols, they would, probably, have re-signed Ramirez so we would have not had a compensatory pick.

  6. Stu

    Rationalizing why it is good to lose by design seems to be a theme.

  7. Crazyhorse

    Wow – these past two seasons with Pujols stats being the same the Cubs handcuffed in a long term contract you are correct. instead the Cubs had the worst two seasons in Cub history. Kinda like saying if Theo stayed with the Redsox the Redsox would still be in last place last year instead of winning a Championship.

    Maybe Pujols would have had better stats , maybe , maybe maybe . I bet the Cubs would be fun to watch. but it did not happen

    The Redsox won the World Series and the Cubs are still in last place. The Cubs

  8. Jon

    It’s great to sit around, and pound our chests as Cubs fans about not overpaying for players, while we pet our “efficient team” trophy.

  9. Dan

    I wasn’t one of the cubs fans who wanted to bring in pujols, but i did want to bring in fielder, a very young left handed power bat. However the way fielder produced this year, im glad we didn’t sign him. i also believe Rizoo will have a break out year this year 250 average 30 homers 90 to 200 rbis

    1. D-Rock

      200 rbi’s? Wow now that would be awesome! Seems unlikely he will get 90 or even 75 with the guys we have hitting in front of him…

  10. Dan

    wow trying to multi task at work i had so many typos i ment 100 rbis

  11. North Side Irish

    Jesse Rogers ‏@ESPNChiCubs 4m
    Heard as of this weekend Donnie Murphy was 50/50 to be tendered. Has a lucrative offer in Japan as well

    Would open a 40 man roster spot if he goes…

    1. Jon

      damn it, we are losing out on FA’s to Japan now…

  12. hansman

    Reliving the 2012 free agency class debates! HOORAY!

  13. Chris M

    Regardless of if it was Pujols or Fielder I think the cubs should have signed one preferably fielder in my opinion an kept cashner. Yes we have alot of prospects now cause we have been so bad but that’s all they are is prospects. I just think that both front should have been addressed differently. I think the major league team would be better for what young players we would still having coming up if they were coming to a winning environment and seeing how to win games at that level instead of seeing every way possible to loose them. Also my thought on the minors would be to add impact talent were it is possible but you don’t have to be like the Astros to do it. Look at how the Dodgers do things. Yea we don’t have are new tv deal yet or new revenue from the stadium updates. But the rickets family are billionaires who own the team. Why can’t they put a little extra out of there own pockets now an invest in their business an recoup said investment when the new revenue streams arrive.

    1. terencemann

      The Dodgers had a center fielder who had recently put up an MVP caliber season and possibly the best young starting pitcher in baseball when they started making moves. They also had solid players at 2nd and catcher and were about to sign a record-breaking media deal. None of those things describe where the Cubs have been over the past 3 seasons.

  14. YourResidentJag

    Troy Renck ‏@TroyRenck 1h
    ICYMI …RT @BertDbacks: Great read here as #Rockies owner Dick Monfort details team’s financial structure. http://bit.ly/1ePliY2

  15. Die hard

    If the Angels would eat 3/4 of contract would take Pujols for Barney and move Rizzo to left field

  16. MattM

    Think about this before you guys dog fielder! What would his stats have been in WRIGLEY as opposed to Detroit! I can guarantee you that at least offensively he would have earned his contract the last two years.

    Doc Wimsley do you have any sort of statistical analysis that can show what Fielder’s stats would have been in Wrigley over Detroit? Then we can look at his WAR and see what would have happened!

    I want you guys to take a look at both sides of the arguement once!

    Brett, that was a nice article btw and I like how you admit that the Cubs WOULD have MADE more money had they signed Pujols or Fielder…..

    1. ssckelley

      December 2, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

      See that reply link in the line below peoples name? Click on that before posting so we can follow who and what you are replying to.

    2. DarthHater

      By my calculations, using the park adjustment factors at ESPN.com, Fielder’s numbers for 2013 would be:

      playing half time at Comerica: .279/.362/.457, 25 HRs

      playing half time at Wrigley: .287/.375/.479, 26 HRs

      A little better, but nothing massive. Comerica is the third most hitter-friendly park. Wrigley is second.

      1. MattM

        So wait……He goes from an .819 OPS to an .854 and that is small? Seriously? By your calculations the only thing that didn’t SIGNIFICANTLY change was home runs. So are you just measuring his production by home runs? I thought that would be the last thing you would do…..Hmmmm…….

        If those changes are statistically significant then I don’t know what is……Seriously! He would gain 8 points in batting average 13 in OBP and 22 points in slugging? How is that not significant and a big difference? If you give me a .287/.375/.479 that’s an All Star…..

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